The wikipedia article is fascinating – this “ancient tradition” of pardoning a turkey actually goes back on to 1989. Everybody seems to think Hary Truman was the first to pardon a turkey, but it was actually the first president Bush.
Even after reading that article, though, I still don’t understand why the president pardoned a turkey. Was it supposed to show that he respected animals? (If so, why wouldn’t he just be a vegetarian?) Was it supposed to show that he didn’t want to waste food? (If so, why not donate the turkey to a hungry family instead of a petting zoo?) I’m assuming the act must have somehow been designed as a PR stunt to get more votes, but I don’t see how that works. Eating a turkey is simply not considered a bad thing by most americans.
So WHY did the president first start with the turkey pardon?